11,041 vagabonds plus:
It was a delightful evening - at first. I was seated between the local constable's niece, and the great-grandmother of the hostess. The dining room was sparsely lit only by candle with a soft reflecting glow from the candlelit burnt-crimson table cloth appropriate for the occasion with just enough dim light for me to see that the constable's niece was not pretty, the great-grandmother, adorned with a never-ending tiara with Salvador Dali-like figurines, was most likely near death (although she did whisper a zinger out of the dark about the servers should at least have miner's lights attached to their foreheads),and that my fork was to left of my green salad plate.
It was quiet mostly, the food was exquisite no matter the lighting, but at intervals there seemed to be sharp rebuts coming from the opposite end of the table. I must tell you there were people seated late at the other end that I did not meet upon arrival to Willow Manor - one individual under a felt black-hooded cloak was swiftly admitted as brief and vanishing thunder arose, the Hostess shutting windows with all her might as violent wind rolled the Manor curtains, his maladjusted shadow was all I could see if I squinted - so I cannot account for the pithy rebuts that floated our way, some that made the constable's niece either hiccup, choke back tears, or interrupted her battle with a stubborn hunk of gristle.
Here is what I heard in that dark manor, Dear Reader, and it is for you to form your own conclusions, as I can neither make heads, serrated edges, or tails:
"...toupee like brown cabbage..."
"...perhaps the vegetable gentleman would honor us..."
"...now what are you doing with those purple grapes?.."
And the most forceful that made the old woman shudder...
"...Heavens! stop playing with your food!.."
Three days later I encountered the gracious Manor Hostess at a roadside vegetable stand with canopy sprung up across the street from the boarded-up filling station that used to sell the only yellow Moon Pies within a four hundred mile radius. The roadside stand had no Moon Pies. Turning to go, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the Hostess standing over an old wheeled carriage with a cinder block foundation, finger-tips of her right hand to lips, a Tiffany egg tomato in her left, inspecting the finely misted local vegetables, a third more swollen than store-bought, with the undecided air of a lover of books reading and re-reading a passage over and over as though interrupted by a loud talker. I quietly touched her arm. She turned and we embraced for a moment, the tomato oozing juice between us. And then she laughed as she exclaimed apologetically that she did not know who I was. When I told her I was at the opposite end between the beautiful niece of the constable and her charming great-grandmother, she began a most remarkable story about ten bottles of salad dressing that disappeared from her kitchen with the constable diligently on the case.
work of art by Klaus Enrique Gerdes
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